There are two places I recall going swimming while living in Heidelberg, and both of them were German facilities outside of Patrick Henry Village. The first I only remember vaguely so will only briefly mention just in case other readers are familiar with it, while the other I recall more fully.
The Schwetzingen Pool
I don’t know what the official name of this pool was, and I wasn’t even sure that it was in Schwetzingen. But I knew it was a short drive from home and I vaguely recalled heading away from the mountains to get there. I surprised myself by finding it almost immediately when noodling with google maps…take a look here.
I only remember this pool vaguely, although I know we went on multiple occasions. As I recall, we mainly stayed in the pool to the southeast–the one with the circular red water feature, although I’m fairly certain that feature didn’t exist at the time. I’m not sure if that was designated as the kids pool or if there was no particular reason we swam there, but it’s the only one I remember using. It does appear to be more shallow than the others, at least from the satellite view I linked above. I do seem to recall there being some serious swimmers and people practicing their dives, which probably explains the longer pool and special diving pool to the west. I didn’t remember there being a pool just for diving, but I distinctly remember watching people dive. I’m sure I would remember the water slides on the north end, so they must have been added later. I also don’t recall the large circular building next door, but I’m not sure that’s something I would’ve noticed at my young age.
My other memory of this pool, and of swimming in Germany overall, is speedos. While the boxer-style swimming trunks are more popular here in the States, I distinctly remember the tight, briefs-style speedos being popular with German men. And even at that young age, I remember thinking I’d prefer not to have to see that. I could post a picture of some speedos here as an example, but I’ll spare you that.
Miramar…now we’re talking. This was basically the Disneyland of swimming, also a short drive away outside of Weinheim. It was a large enclosed space featuring lots of pools of various design and function, saunas, hot tubs, and even a large outdoor lake. We were never allowed to go to the lake, for reasons I’ll get to in a bit. For now, take a look at this satellite view of the place. You’ll have to zoom out or scroll north a bit to see the lake, since I wanted to focus in on the building which is what I remember.
As I recall, you entered Miramar by first passing through a large locker room. I think you had to rent the lockers, and at the same window I remember picking up our swimming caps. I hated those rubber caps, but I think they were required by the facility if not by German law…I assume it was a hygiene thing. They were easy enough to put on your head, and easy enough to forget about while you were having fun swimming, but taking these rubber things off after they were wet was pure torture. They pulled your hair terribly, and it hurt no matter how slowly or carefully you tried to remove it. I had forgotten until I went looking for an example photo, but now I recall my mom having a fancy cap which may have had flowers on it similar to ones you can buy at this site.
In the satellite view, there is a clear central dome. I don’t remember the dome, but I do recall the large circular pool in that location. It had an underwater ledge for seating which ran all the way around, and there were lots of water jets that were probably for massage but we had more fun blocking and unblocking them. I seem to recall this being the “fancy” pool in the complex, but I’m not sure why…maybe it was the dome, but I think maybe there were nice wall decorations and maybe plants ringing the edge of the room.
The next pool I remember is the indoor-outdoor pool, but for the life of me I can’t remember the indoor part. Perhaps the circular pool above was actually the indoor part? The layout of the building in the satellite view seems to support that, although I see two outdoor pools attached to the building. It’s very likely there’s been some renovation. At any rate, I remember it being great fun to transition between the indoor and outdoor parts by swimming underneath a plexiglass window. The outdoor pool was heated, and I remember steam coming off of it during night swims. I recall that it had several small alcoves and “side rooms” as you swam down a central corridor, creating a lot of private areas. I can remember swimming there with my brother one night, yelling and playing as usual, but being just old enough to recognize that the atmosphere here seemed more for adults…it was quiet and romantically lit by underwater lighting and there were couples in the various alcoves. I wasn’t really old enough to understand, but I did understand that maybe we kids were supposed to be in a different pool.
Across from the circular pool, separated by a hallway of plexiglass walls, I remember an area with several hot tubs which we never utilized. I remember them being in natural lighting, which makes me think they must have been in that small open courtyard you can see buried amongst the solar panels. Also, somewhere in the building were several sauna rooms with wooden walls and seating. I think there were different rooms for men and women, which perhaps made sense because I recall German men sitting nude in the sauna. The Germans, at least as I recall, have a different take on public nudity than we do in the States and this is only one of many times I encountered it. I remember being as uncomfortable with it then as I probably would be now. At any rate, just outside the sauna door I remember a metal tub in the floor which looked essentially like a whirlpool except that the water was ice-cold. Apparently the idea was to bake yourself in the sauna, and then hop into this freezing water to…I’m not sure what. Maybe give yourself a refreshing jolt to the system? Or maybe it was another hygiene thing? Whatever the case, it seemed like worse torture to me than wearing a rubber swim cap.
For us, the main attraction of Miramar was the large pool at the southern end, which you can see in the satellite view with its large rectangular domed roof. This room was set up to look like a beach. The Astroturf grass at one end was sand-colored and lined with beach chairs, and the floor sloped gradually into the water where the grassy carpet transitioned to the pool floor. But the best part was that this was a wave pool. On some regular schedule, they would turn on the wave machine and the fun would begin. In those days we used a lot of plastic floaties…mainly rings to go around our waist like a life-preserver and inflatable things that go around your upper arms. I can remember being in the deep end, holding onto my floating ring and being carried up and down large distances with each wave. In the shallow end we would try to leap over each incoming wave. I don’t know how common wave pools were at the time, but it was my first experience with one and I thought it was an amazing feat of technology. I think some time went by before I learned of one in the States, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it didn’t come here until later. The crazy water slides at the east end of this big room? I can’t comment on those, I’m pretty sure they didn’t exist back then.
So why didn’t we ever go to the big outdoor lake? I had never even laid eyes on it until I pulled up google maps recently; I just knew of its existence via whispered rumors. The reason, as far as I can recall, goes back to something I’ve already touched on: public nudity. I’m not clear on the actual nudity rules of Miramar, but I know that after a certain hour–maybe 7pm or so–there was an announcement over the intercom system and then nudity became much more common. I don’t know what the announcement said, since I think it was in German, but I know it wasn’t saying that kids had to leave because I know on one occasion we stuck around. I can remember strategically placing my floating ring to cover all the important bits whenever I was out of the water, but also passing laughing German children who were stark naked and seemed oblivious to any modesty. I recall going to the big wave pool without any trunks on and being surprised at how…free…it felt. Like my trunks had always been weighing me down and now I could move around and swim much more easily. Not something I’ve really experimented more with here in the States.
At any rate, the outdoor lake was an exception to the evening nudity rule — it was all-day nakedness out there, and so we weren’t allowed. At least, that’s what my vague memory tells me.